Stevie Carroll (stevie_carroll) wrote,
Stevie Carroll

On Writing Historical Fiction

My notes from Laura Wilson's talk at Wellington Arch:

Laura first introduced her work, which is mostly set between the 1940s and the 1970s, as in her current series where the changes in society are observed through the eyes of a London policeman. In her opinion the recent past feels the most remote and the most difficult to write about as people remember so much of it (most correspondence pointing out errors still comes by post rather than by email!). Historical Fiction is defined as taking place more than 35 years in the past, although not all such stories are categorised as such for marketing purposes. Historical Fiction may be more popular in times of recession?

Genre Subdivisions:

1) Fictionalised Biography. Real people in real settings. The level of accuracy required depends on how well known the individual is/was.

2) Imaginary people in real backgrounds.

3) Series with a connecting theme.

4) Family sagas and 'bodice rippers'.

5) Timeslip.

6) Historical crime.

7) Paranormal/Gothic.

8) Military.

9) Steampunk (requires great care re internal logic).

Remember that the past is always another country!

For each era:

What do characters want? What can they reasonably expect? Forget political correctness!!

What constitutes youth, age, middle age? Attitudes to death, and taboos? Speed of travel? Pace of change? Attitudes to dirt? Attitudes to sex and level of ignorance (lack of vocabulary)? Gulf between public attitudes and private behaviour?

What can be reasonable done in period clothes? State of teeth: rich vs poor (level of sugar in diets)? Diseases?

Research important but also need emotional connection to book. Need to ensure that story stands up and underpin with authenticity and truth. Too much factual information gets in the way: story comes first.

Laura advised the use of time-lines, and index cards for the characters (emphasised need to access their earlier memories). She is also a fan of writing the synopsis first and deciding on chapter breaks from that.

Mass Observation records very good especially for 1937 to 1946.
Kelly's Directory for names.

I took away a lot of ideas, not all of which I'll use, but some may be more helpful to persons not me.
Tags: for reference, on writing, out and about
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